In recent weeks it has become abundantly clear that there is one pathological way in which Israel differs from all other countries. Israel is the only place on earth where large portions of the country’s “intelligentsia” think it obscene and “fascist” to expect people seeking citizenship in their country to express loyalty to it.
The issue came up because of a bill before the Israeli cabinet and Knesset amending the citizenship law. Officially proposed by Israel’s minister of justice, it would require non-Israeli Arabs seeking Israeli citizenship to swear their allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and a democratic state. (Native-born Israeli Arabs would not be required to do so and could therefore continue expressing their contempt toward Israel both as a Jewish and a democratic state.)
This upsets the Israeli Left, in part because it wishes to maximize the number of non-Israeli Arabs granted citizenship and residency in Israel. It is part of the Left’s demographic assault against Israel’s Jewish character. Leftists also want automatic citizenship granted to any Arab marrying anyone with Israeli citizenship. In some cases, these are third or fourth wives of Israeli Muslims.
Other countries, including the United States, do not grant automatic citizenship to people married to their citizens. In Egypt, a citizen marrying someone with Israeli citizenship is immediately stripped of Egyptian citizenship.
In recent weeks, as the vote on the loyalty oath bill approached, hundreds of Israeli leftists took to the streets to denounce it. Many proclaimed it a form of fascism. Of course, if every democratic country requiring a pledge of allegiance were fascist, there would be no democracy on the planet. Nevertheless, Gavriel Solomon, a retired leftist professor, declared the law would make Israel “Arabrein” the way Hitler sought to make Germany Judenrein; Hebrew University professor Yaron Ezrachi saw the law as proof Israel was becoming a fascist country; Tel Aviv University professor Chaim Gans claimed the law was intended to abuse and humiliate Arabs; and Barry Leff, co-chairman of the leftist group Rabbis for Human Rights, wrote that the oath is “contrary to Jewish values.”
If Israel were a normal country, no one would think there was anything strange or unusual about its having an oath of allegiance for those seeking citizenship. Among the many countries requiring such an oath are (in alphabetical order): Australia, Canada, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Romania, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Sudan, have their own versions of oaths of allegiance, called bay-ah (or baiyat) to the leader. Curiously, Israeli Arabs and Jewish leftists aren’t heard complaining about any of those.
Oaths of allegiance are not only widely demanded of would-be immigrants seeking citizenship, they also are routinely required for members of the military and those seeking to hold public office in many countries, up to and including the presidency of the United States.
Some have argued that the proposed oath is objectionable because would-be immigrants would have to pledge allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” Why can France require allegiance to France as a French state, or Greece require allegiance to Greece as a Greek (and as a Christian Orthodox) state, but Israel cannot require similar allegiance?
There are many countries that have proclaimed Christianity, in one form or another, as the state religion. All Muslim states have an official religion. They differ from Christian states mainly in that they tend to prohibit all worship that is not part of their official religion. There are also Buddhist states.
Israel, by the way, is hardly the only country with a law granting citizenship to foreign members of the dominant ethnic group of that country. Some thirty other countries, ranging from Armenia to China to Greece to Hungary to the Ukraine, have laws that grant preferences by ethnicity.
Some Israeli critics of the bill have suggested the language be made more neutral and merely require acknowledgement of Israel as a legitimate state. But that is pure disingenuousness. The real reason critics object to the proposed oath of allegiance is that they regard the very idea of a Jewish state as offensive, even illegitimate. Their position cannot be disguised with clever word games and alteration of the language of the oath.
Let us put the matter bluntly. The driving force today among all too many radical Israeli leftists is disloyalty. Just as the raison d’?tre of the radical American Left is anti-Americanism, that of the radical Israeli Left is anti-Zionism. Not only are such radicals not disturbed by the widespread disloyalty of Israeli Arabs, one suspects this is the only basis for their knee-jerk endorsement of the demands made by those Arabs.
Israeli leftists increasingly identify with the enemies of their own country on virtually every issue. These folks would not have any difficulty at all in swearing a pledge of loyalty to the Palestinian Authority.
Steven Plaut, a professor at Haifa University, is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.